Comedian John Bishop joins Doctor Who cast

Comedian John Bishop is to join Jodie Whittaker for the 13th series of Doctor Who, the BBC has revealed.

The 54-year-old, who recently tested positive for coronavirus, said boarding the Tardis was a “dream come true”.

He will play a character called Dan, who “becomes embroiled in the Doctor’s adventures” and faces “evil alien races beyond his wildest nightmares”.

Bishop fills the gap left by Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole, who bowed out in a special New Year’s Day episode.

He began filming his role last November, but the BBC kept the signing under wraps until the broadcast of Revolution Of The Daleks on Friday night.

Bishop, who grew up on a Merseyside council estate, had a brief career as a professional footballer before turning his hand to comedy.

He has previously acted in the Channel 4 drama Skins and the Ken Loach film Route Irish.

Earlier this week, the comedian revealed that he and his wife had tested positive for Coronavirus over Christmas, saying he had been “flattened” by “the worst illness I have ever had”.

Writing on Instagram, he described his symptoms as including “incredible headaches, muscle and joint point, no appetite, nausea, dizziness [and] chronic fatigue like I didn’t know existed”.

He updated fans on New Year’s Eve, saying he and his wife were “getting a little stronger” every day, and promising he would return to work in January.

It is not thought his illness will disrupt production on Doctor Who. The show is on a scheduled break for Christmas and not due to resume filming until later this month.

The 13th series of the rebooted sci-fi stalwart will see Whittaker return as the extra terrestrial Time Lord, alongside Mandip Gill, who returns as Yaz.

In a statement, Bishop said: “If I could tell my younger self that one day I would be asked to step on board the Tardis, I would never have believed it.

“It’s an absolute dream come true to be joining Doctor Who and I couldn’t wish for better company than Jodie and Mandip.”

Programme boss Chris Chibnall added: “It’s time for the next chapter of Doctor Who, and it starts with a man called Dan. Oh, we’ve had to keep this one secret for a long, long time.

“Our conversations started with John even before the pandemic hit.

“The character of Dan was built for him, and it’s a joy to have him aboard the Tardis.”

Doctor Who will return to BBC One later this year.

Covid in Scotland: Shetland outbreak continues to grow

Another 14 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Shetland the past 24 hours – bringing the total number in the current outbreak to 72.

NHS Shetland said many testing positive were asymptomatic, raising concern they may have unknowingly spread the virus.

The health board said many infections happened before Christmas when the islands were in level one.

Shetland is currently in level three but officials have warned a move to level four is possible.

NHS Shetland’s consultant in public health Susan Laidlaw urged anyone with a new cough to get tested, even if they do not have other Covid symptoms.

She said: “We are hearing people say that they have had a new cough but didn’t get a test because they didn’t think it was a ‘Covid’ cough.

“Any new continuous cough should be a prompt to get a test, along with a high temperature or loss/change in taste or smell.”

She said she hoped that people had stayed at home for New Year which should have an impact on the infection rate.

“We are still fighting back a wave of infections,” she added.

“The simplest guidance at the moment is to stay at home with your own household as far as possible and avoid meeting others as much as you can. If you do come into contact with others then remember FACTS.”

The health board said the majority of the infections occurred before and during the Christmas weekend, with a lot of the cases within families and extended families.

Several hundred people on the islands have been asked to isolate.

Dr Laidlaw said that those who are isolating because they are positive, or a contact of someone who is positive, would often receive an automatically generated text messages telling them how long to they should self-isolate.

If people had have had numerous contacts, they might get multiple messages with different dates, in which case they should always go by the latest date, she said.

All of mainland Scotland and Skye moved into the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions on Boxing Day, with Shetland and other island communities place in level three.

The confirmed cases have spread from the north mainland of Shetland to Lerwick, with the situation described as by far the most serious outbreak in Shetland since March.

Indoor visits at all of Shetland’s care homes have been suspended.

New Forest crash: Four ponies killed

Four ponies have been killed in a collision with a vehicle in the New Forest National Park.

The animals were hit on Thursday night while licking freshly laid salt on Roger Penny Way, Hampshire Constabulary said.

Three ponies died at the scene while a fourth was found dead later a short distance away.

In December, three donkeys were killed on the road, which is a black spot for animal accidents.

The crash happened at about 21:00 GMT on a 40mph (64km/h) section of the road north of Brook.

The car, a Land Rover Discovery, appears to have been severely damaged in the collision, according to a police tweet, which gave no further details.

Mark Ferrett, whose daughter owned the ponies, said the deaths were “unacceptable”.

He said: “I would favour a reduction in the speed [limit]. Please, everyone needs to slow down and stop this carnage.”

The New Forest is one of the largest remaining areas of unenclosed land where commoners’ cattle, ponies and donkeys roam throughout the open heath.

In 2019, 58 animals were killed and 32 were injured, according to the New Forest National Park Authority.

Andrew Napthine, a New Forest Agister who helps manage the area’s free-roaming animals, attended the scene of the crash, and said the male driver was not injured.

He said three of the ponies were killed on the road while a fourth fled the scene and died behind a bush.

Wham!s Last Christmas goes to number one for the first time

Wham!’s Last Christmas has topped the UK singles chart for the first time, 36 years after it was first released.

The festive classic was streamed 9.2 million times over the last week, knocking LadBaby’s Don’t Stop Me Eating off the top spot.

First released in December 1984, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley’s song was famously held off the top spot by Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?

It has subsequently returned to the top 10 a further six times.

Fans had previously launched a campaign to get it to number one in 2017, to mark the first anniversary of George Michael’s untimely death on Christmas Day 2016 – but it only reached number seven that year.

It actually came much closer to achieving that goal a year later when it returned to number two in the chart immediately after Christmas – but was thwarted by Ed Sheeran’s Perfect.

Its lyrics also inspired Dame Emma Thompson to write the movie Last Christmas, which was released in cinemas last Christmas.

Last Christmas was written in George Michael in his childhood bedroom in February 1984, “and as far as I was concerned it was a number one”, he told Smash Hits in 1986.

Inspiration struck out of the blue, while the singer was watching a football match at his parents’ house in Hertfordshire.

“We’d had a bite to eat and were sitting together relaxing with the television on in the background when, almost unnoticed, George disappeared upstairs for an hour or so,” recalled Ridgeley in his 2017 memoir.

“When he came back down, such was his excitement, it was as if he had discovered gold which, in a sense, he had.

“We went to his old room, the room in which we had spent hours as kids recording pastiches of radio shows and jingles… and he played me the introduction and the beguiling, wistful chorus melody to Last Christmas. It was a moment of wonder.”

The song was subsequently recorded in the middle of August at London’s Advision Studios, which Michael plastered in Christmas decorations to set the mood.

The cheesy-but-cheerful video was shot later that year in Switzerland, featuring Wham’s backing singers Pepsi and Shirley, model Kathy Hill, and Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp – who was then dating his future wife Shirley, so came along for the trip.

Alongside its famous chunky knitwear, and central role for a silver brooch, the video also marked the final time Michael would be seen without his trademark designer stubble.

The singer jetted back from the film shoot to record his vocals for Do They Know It’s Christmas – which would eventually hold Wham!’s song off the top spot.

In a gesture of solidarity with Band Aid, however, the duo donated all the royalties from Last Christmas to Ethiopian famine relief.

At the time of its initial release, Last Christmas was part of a Wham! double A-side single, along with Everything She Wants.

Although immediately after Christmas, radio stations started playing Everything She Wants and the band did a Top of the Pops appearance to promote it, the colossal sales of Do They Know It’s Christmas meant it was never to top the chart at the time.

Prior to today’s chart, Last Christmas was the UK’s biggest-selling single never to have reached number one – accumulating 1.9 million sales across its lifetime, according to the Official Chart Company.

That title now passes on to Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger (1.55 million sales), which was a number two hit in 2011.

But Last Christmas does now hold a new chart record – for the longest time taken for a single to reach number one.

The previous record-holder was Tony Christie’s (Is This The Way To) Amarillo? which had a 34-year gap between its original release and topping the chart for Comic Relief in 2005.

Wham!’s record is the second long-toothed classic to claim chart glory in recent weeks, after Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You reached number one in December, 26 years after its release.

Christmas songs continue to dominate this week’s chart countdown, with 28 festive tracks inside the top 40.

However, as festive streams decline, some other songs have seen their fortunes turn around – with Little Mix’s Sweet Melody returning to the top 10; and Ed Sheeran’s new single Afterglow reaching a new peak of 13.

In the albums chart, Michael Bublé’s Christmas album returned to number one for the first time in nine years, displacing Paul McCartney’s latest record, McCartney III.

Taylor Swift’s second surprise album of 2020, Evermore, held steady at number two; while Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia jumped 15 places to number three after featuring prominently in a number of end-of-year polls.

Rainbow beamed over Birmingham as message of hope

A rainbow of light has been beamed across Birmingham as a “message of hope and peace” for the new year.

The laser installation by artist Yvette Mattern could be seen up to 10 miles away, according to the city’s Hippodrome venue.

It said it hoped the piece – Global Rainbow – would inspire people after a “challenging 2020”.

Thomas Askew, who shared his image of the installation on Twitter, said it was a “beautiful sight” over the city.

Graham Callister, the Hippodrome’s director of festivals, said: “After such a challenging 2020, we hope that those who have been able to experience Global Rainbow have been inspired to take a moment to pause and reflect and look toward 2021 with hope and peace.”

He said it was important people in the area, which is under tier four restrictions, did not travel to see it.

“The joy of this special visual artwork is that it can be seen safely from the homes of those living nearby by simply looking to the sky,” he said.

Ms Mattern created the work in 2009 and it has been seen around the world, including in New York and Sao Paulo.

“I hope those in Birmingham and the Black Country who saw Global Rainbow enjoyed the experience and will take comfort from the positivity it represents as we head into 2021,” she said.

Rainbows have been seen as a symbol of hope during the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid lockdown: South Wales Police deals with 240 New Years Eve calls

There were 240 reports of Covid-19 rule breaches made to South Wales Police on New Year’s Eve.

The force says it handed out 43 fixed penalty notices to some of those involved – in total, there were 430 issued in December.

Officers have also been turning away people who had travelled to Wales from Southampton, Kent and Solihull on New Year’s Day.

Last week police had to turn back people travelling to Wales from London.

Referring to the rule breaches, Supt Claire Evans of South Wales Police said: “The rules are very clear that you must not mix with other households.

“Our health partners have been clear that indoor transmission remains one of the greatest risks, so while we will continue to work with our communities to help them understand the rules, we will enforce in those areas where we are seeing blatant or persistent breaches.

“House parties, attending gatherings and travelling to exercise are not allowed and if you do any of these things then you are running the risk of being fined.”

A police patrol issued a fine to a gathering in Ferndale, with other people being spoken to and sent home.

Stop checks were conducted on vehicles at Merthyr Mawr in Bridgend in response to Covid breaches, with owners identified from as far away as Gateshead and Middlesex.

Chief Constable of South Wales Police Jeremy Vaughan tweeted that there had been “assaults, drink drivers and people ignoring the fact we are in the midst of a global health pandemic”.

North Wales Police asked people to “please do not travel for exercise”.

Wales has been in a nationwide level four lockdown since 20 December.

Travelling is only allowed for essential purposes, such as for work and for caring responsibilities. International travel is also not allowed.

People are still allowed out of their homes to exercise, for unlimited periods each day, but must maintain social distancing, and not exercise with anyone outside their household.

Coronavirus: Police issue 126 fines for New Years Eve parties

Police issued 126 Covid fines of £200 each over New Year’s Eve house parties across Northern Ireland.

They also served 34 prohibition notices over parties and two businesses were given penalty notices for continuing to operate in breach of regulations.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said it was “disappointing” people chose to break the regulations.

He also said there were 86 reports of domestic abuse in 24 hours which led to 38 arrests.

He said: “Sadly, we know domestic abuse doesn’t only occur at Christmas, that it happens all year round. Historically, however, figures show over the Christmas period incidents of domestic abuse rise.

“We also know that during this pandemic more people have been, and will continue to, spend more time at home than they usually would.

“The combined impact of this pandemic and the festive season will have made it really tough for people experiencing abuse and, in some situations, even worse.”

Between 20:00 GMT on New Year’s Eve and 08:00 GMT on New Year’s Day, police received 1,004 calls related to reports of anti-social behaviour, assault, concern for safety, criminal damage, missing persons and road traffic collisions.

ACC McEwan added:”Where people do not follow the health protection regulations, our approach will remain the same we will engage with people first explaining the guidance and the law and encourage people to do the right thing.

“However, where we are left with no choice but to enforce, we will take this measure in order to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities and help protect our NHS.”

In November, ‘COV4’ fines replaced the previous minimum penalty notice of £60 for breaches of Covid-19 regulations.

The executive agreed on 8 October to raise the minimum fine to £200 and fines on conviction up to £10,000.

Police say prohibition notices are issued as a public safety measure.

These require premises to stop what enforcement officers consider to be unsafe activity, to limit the spread of Covid-19.